Lantana: Town seeks three-party meeting on bridge issues

By Tim O’Meilia and 

Mary Thurwachter

The town of Lantana has agreed to pay the cost of working around water and sewer lines discovered on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway where the East Ocean Avenue bridge is being rebuilt.

The discussion over whether the town or Palm Beach County, which is building the $32 million replacement bridge, should pay has not stopped or delayed construction, both county and town officials said.

At its Feb. 25 meeting, the Lantana Town Council agreed to pay $50,026, about $7,000 less than the county asked for originally but what the town estimated to be a more accurate assessment of costs.

Lantana Town Manager Deborah Manzo said the town earlier had asked for additional information from the county to determine whether the extra costs were the town’s responsibility. 

“They provided us with the information that the conflicts (in construction) were our responsibility,” she said. “They will invoice it. We will pay it.” 

But Mayor Dave Stewart and other members of the council expressed their frustration with the county and its general contractor for all the additional charges.

“Since 2003 (when the bridge was proposed), we have done everything they’ve asked us to do,” Stewart said. “We’ve saved them a lot of money.” The town, for example, allowed the contractor to do staging a couple months early and to take over Sportsman Park for the staging. 

Last month, the town was told by the county it needed to replace a buoy marking a utility line under the bridge. The buoy was likely clipped by a boat propeller, Manzo said. To avoid replacement costs of several thousands of dollars, divers from the town’s Police Department did the work themselves.

The town says it is owed about $10,000 in police overtime from the county for work done to re-route traffic during bridge construction. On Feb. 25, the council voted to pursue recouping those funds. Town attorney Max Lohman and Manzo plan to meet with county officials again to iron out differences.

“We need to get all three parties (town, county and general contractor) in the room, this time with attorneys there,” Lohman said. “We are wrestling with final dollar amounts.”

At its March 11 meeting, Lantana will also discuss the noise variance it had granted in January so that workers could more easily meet their construction deadlines. As part of that agreement, the contractor agreed to complete all pile driving no later than Jan. 25. 

“It (pile driving) continued well into February,” said Stewart, who lives near the bridge and kept track of the noise. “They are in violation (of the agreement).”

The new bridge will be 11 feet higher than its 62-year-old predecessor, requiring 40 percent fewer bridge openings for boats. Extra width will allow for additional bicycle and pedestrian lanes as well.

The old bridge closed in March 2012 and the new bridge is scheduled to open in November. Assistant County Engineer Tanya McConnell said the work by a Miami construction firm is on schedule.                                   Ú

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